If you know me personally, you know I cannot physically be near dogs. Since my youth, I’ve been allergic to canines of all breeds, meaning I never grew up experiencing the unconditional love or companionship one can give. It’s for this reason I’m drawn to media that explores this dynamic, bringing me to A Dog’s Journey, the sequel to 2017’s A Dog’s Promise. Both are adaptions of novels written by W. Bruce Cameron, who co-wrote this picture alongside Maya Forbes, Cathryn Michon and Wally Wolodarsky while Gail Mancuso directed. 


Journey’s central character is a dog whose love for and dedication to his owners is so strong, he’s resurrected as a newborn puppy upon dying. Consequently, our hungry hero changes breed, name and even gender throughout the film, but his unwavering dedication to his masters ensures he’ll always reunite with them (I’ll henceforth refer to him as Bailey, his original identity, for convenience). Voiced by Josh Gad, Bailey is Journey’s most vocal character to the detriment of the film; although his food-centric worldview and inability to grasp finer human concepts on rare occasions will inspire a humorous quip, his commentary quickly grows tiring and gags fall flat. 

Above all else, Journey wants to tug at your heartstrings, and it seems almost scientifically designed to attempt to do so. Nevertheless, this is a field where the film’s efforts underwhelm. Reminiscent of its predecessor, Bailey’s new journey involves tailing CJ, his original owner’s granddaughter, to “protect” her. We, through Bailey, follow CJ throughout four phases of her life: toddler (Emma Volk), kid (Abby Ryder Fortson), teenager and young adult (Kathryn Prescott). Bailey learns new skills and eventually reunites CJ with her childhood friend Trevor (Henry Lau), ultimately helping them realize their feelings towards each other. CJ also rekindles her relationship with her estranged mother (Betty Gilpin), and everything closes in a saccharine manner. Gad and a few of his co-stars mention in the special features how moved they were upon first reading the script (Gad admits he cried), but it’s hard to invest in the one-dimensional stereotypes they portray or the hardships they’ll inevitably overcome.

On a technical level, A Dog’s Journey is fine; its cinematography, editing and score are solid, and the actors did an admirable job with the material they were given. This was a project the cast was certainly enthusiastic about, something the five making-of special features and director’s commentary attest to. It’s a shame they, and Journey‘s compelling premise, were undermined by a rote, predictable story and the protagonist’s unrelenting commentary.

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